January 30, 2008

THE GIPPER'S HEIR:

After Romney's Barrage, McCain Stands Tall (Jonathan Weisman and Paul Kane, 1/30/08, Washington Post)

[L]ast night, the senator from Arizona emerged from that negative onslaught a survivor. In money and message, Romney threw all he could at McCain in a bruising week in Florida, but it did not prove to be enough.

"You don't want to say it doesn't get you anything because a lot of campaigns are won on negativity," said John Weaver, a longtime political adviser to McCain. "But if Romney wasn't born on third base, if he had to campaign and fundraise like everyone else, I'm sure he wouldn't be here anymore."

The Republicans' swing through Florida was a watershed. Not only was it the first big state of the presidential nomination fight, but it was also the first state that looked like the United States at large, with all its ethnic, religious and racial diversity, its economic haves and have-nots, and the sheer scale of its political universe.


The GOP could have its unifier: McCain's victory in Florida shows that he may be able to cobble together a new type of coalition. (Peter Wallsten, 1/30/08, Los Angeles Times)
The Arizona senator, long the bane of the GOP establishment, showed in Florida that he could begin cobbling together a new Republican coalition -- attracting enough support from all corners of the party base to give him a plurality in the biggest and most diverse state to vote so far in the 2008 campaign.

He took about a quarter of conservatives, secured nearly a third of evangelicals, dominated among his typical base of self-described moderates, and won easily among voters who care about authenticity, experience and electability.

In winning Florida, McCain threw off a major critique of his candidacy: He prevailed in an all-Republican primary that excluded the more moderate independents who had ensured McCain's wins in New Hampshire and South Carolina.

And in a state plagued by insurance woes, falling home prices and a rising number of foreclosures, he defeated a rival, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who had portrayed himself as the best-equipped to fix the economy.


I have to admit underestimating Mitt Romney's willingness to throw good money after bad, which kept him going this far, but it's hard to see how he can spend enough spread widely enough to stay competitive next Tuesday. So John McCain has wrapped up the nomination before the Super Bowl and the party is racing to fall inline in back of him. Ironically, it is the Democrats who will fix any lingering problems he has with the Right, as they spend the next ten months telling everyone how unacceptably conservative he is.

The Senator's victory speech last night previewed the message that will start to penetrate the miasma of conservative derangement now that he has no foes to the Right:

My friends, in one week we will have as close to a national primary as we have ever had in this country. I intend to win it, and be the nominee of our party. And I intend to do that by making it clear what I stand for. I stand for the principles and policies that first attracted me to the Republican Party when I heard, in whispered conversations and tap codes, about the then Governor of California, who stood by me and my comrades, and who was making quite a reputation for standing by his convictions no matter the changing winds of political thought and popular culture. When I left the Navy and entered public life, I enlisted as a foot soldier in the political revolution he began. And I am as proud to be a Reagan conservative today, as I was then. I trust in the courage, good sense, resourcefulness and decency of the American people, who deserve a government that trusts in their qualities as well, and doesn't abrogate to its elf the responsibilities to do for the people what the people can and want to do for themselves.

We Republicans have always known that the first responsibility of government is to keep this country safe from all enemies foreign and domestic, and the American people unburdened by the heavy hand of government that spends too much of their money on things they neither want nor need, while failing to do as well as we should the things none of us can do individually. Government must defend our nation's security wisely and effectively, because the cost of our defense is so dear to us, measured in losses so hard to bear, and in the heartbreak of so many families. Government must respect our values because they are the true source of our strength; and enforce the rule, which distinguishes successful democracies from failed societies, and is the first defense of freedom. And the judges we appoint to federal benches must understand that is their only responsibility, and leave to elected officials their responsibility to make the laws that they enforce. We believe government should do only those things we cannot do individually, to tax us no more than necessary, and spend no more than necessary, and then get out of the way of the most industrious, ingenious and optimistic people in the history of the world so that they can build an even greater country than the one they inherited.

My friends, as I said the other week in South Carolina, there is nothing in our country that is inevitable. We can overcome any challenge as long as we keep our courage, and stand by the principles that have made our party and our country great. Our party has always been successful when we have, like Ronald Reagan, stood fast by our convictions. And we have only suffered when our allegiance to our principles has not been as steadfast as it should. I intend to make my stand on those principles, and I am confident we will succeed in this contest and in the bigger one in November against anyone the Democratic Party nominates.

Most importantly, I promise you again, I will always put America -- her strength, her ideals, her future -- before every other consideration.


Despite his decades in public life and 8 years in the national spotlight, even few Republicans realize that Mr. McCain was hand-picked for Republican politics by Ronald Reagan. With the field cleared and a free media megaphone big and loud enough that he can drown out the Beltway Right, he can easily run as the Reagan Republican he is.

MORE:
McCain Disproves the Doubters (ANA MARIE COX, 1/30/08, TIME)

A victory in Florida's closed primary should silence the refrain that has echoed through talk radio and conservative blogs ever since McCain started to claw his way toward the nomination: He's not a "real Republican." Says one McCain staffer: "Maybe after they see his name next to an 'R' in the general election they'll change their minds."

After his win in New Hampshire, critics proclaimed McCain too moderate to win over enough religious conservatives in South Carolina. After his victory there, critics insisted that Romney's millions, superior get-out-the-vote effort, and command of economic issues would erase the slim lead McCain had eked out in Florida. The day after Tuesday's convincing win, McCain's enemies will surely be looking for new ways to frame these same familiar complaints. But a look at the exit polls suggests that many of the assumptions that made McCain's candidacy look shaky from afar have dissolved in the heat of a competitive race.

For all of Romney's private-sector experience, McCain's almost quaint message of fiscal conservatism — he repeats the line "If only we could cut spending" to the point of parody — resonated among the many voters who were looking for answers to Florida's economic slump. Fifty percent of those who turned out Tuesday said that the economy was their most important issue, and McCain won those voters by 38% to 35%. Explains Steve Schmidt, a senior McCain adviser, "People understand the difference between a very good salesman and a commander in chief."

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 30, 2008 7:43 AM
Comments

Sheesh. I am not thrilled with McCain for a number of reasons, but I'll sure as perdition vote for him over any available Democrat.

Posted by: Twn at January 30, 2008 10:19 AM
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